A Storm of Controversy

Rielle Jones-Teske and Tyler McGuire

Rielle Jones-Teske

To say climate change does not have a direct effect on the severity of extreme weather is to completely ignore scientific fact. The warming of the earth’s atmosphere is the catalyst in a chain of events that causes storms to be bigger and move farther than ever before. The hurricanes that rocked the Caribbean and Southeast United States during late August and early September included Irma, one of the largest hurricanes on record and the and the easternmost storm on record, and Harvey, which broke the continental United States rainfall total for a single event, according to insideclimatenews.org.

So why are these storms happening now? Well, the temperature of our planet has been exponentially rising since about 1950, with an unprecedented increase of CO2 emissions from the human species. According to NASA, while it is true that the earth goes through completely natural warm and cool phases that can be attributed to miniscule changes in Earth’s orbit, 97% of climate scientists agree that the extreme climate-warming trends observed over the last century are due to human activity.

Our actions influence the severity of tropical storms and other natural disasters by acting as the first step in a chain of events. The warming of the atmosphere melts more ice. This ice-turned-water adds to rising sea levels. The sea levels are heated by the warming atmosphere, which causes the more sea water to evaporate and rise up. What goes up must come down, so after all of that water vapor ends up as torrential amounts of rain. According to NPR, this was a huge with factor Hurricane Harvey’s record amount of rainfall. Combined with larger amounts of water vapor and higher levels of heat, convection is created. Convection is essentially hurricane fuel, it’s what drives them. So, with more convection, you see bigger and bigger hurricanes. While scientists agree that there are other factors that affect tropical storms such as Hurricane Harvey, they are also in general consensus that heat is the essence of worse storms. The hotter it gets, the bigger and more catastrophic the storms will be. And as you’ve read, human-induced climate change is the catalyst.

Tyler McGuire

When a disaster like hurricane Harvey strikes in Houston, there is always a very fast response from the US population to help those in need. Whether it be rescuing people, getting them food or water, or giving them a place to stay, the people of this great country are always willing to help out a fellow American.

Once things have settled down a bit, we then find ourselves asking, “how could we have prevented this?” Now, this is a very hard question, and I’ve heard two different answers mainly. The first: Climate change caused these hurricanes to be much worse than they would’ve otherwise been. The second: We aren’t entirely sure why these hurricanes are so bad, but it could be because of human involvement. I’d have to say I side with the second argument much more.

Saying that climate change is causing these hurricanes doesn’t make any sense. Climate change is used as a descriptive term. It doesn’t add or take away from a situation in any way shape or form.

There’s no way we could factor in every single variable when it comes to a hurricane or any disaster that Mother Nature throws our way. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the root cause of the severity of these monstrous storms is.

Now, having said that, precipitation in Houston has skyrocketed recently, and that did affect the hurricane. More moisture in the air means more rain, and more rain means bigger hurricanes.

The reason for Houston’s major flooding is simply because it’s a big city with lots of pavement and it didn’t have enough land that was capable of absorbing water.

We still don’t know if climate change is increasing the frequency of hurricanes; the science is everything but settled on.

What could we do to stop a hurricane? I mean really. Nothing we could’ve done would’ve stopped hurricane Harvey from hitting Houston. As sad as that is to say, it’s the truth, but we shouldn’t allow that to stop us from trying and we should continue efforts to help out the victims of these terrible storms.

Is the climate changing? Yes, obviously. Do humans have something to do with that change? It’s very likely that we do, yes. Do we have a catastrophic effect on the climate that will flood the Earth within the next 40 years? I’m not sure about that. However, we should do everything that we can to keep this planet as green and as habitable as possible.